Adapted/updated by Jeff Quandt from an article by Liz Ryan
LinkedIn is a networker’s dream: an easy way to learn about, and reach out to, millions of business people and thousands of employers. Yet many LinkedIn users don’t take advantage of the site’s features even though the vast majority are free.
Here are my top 25 recommendations for getting past “Well, I’ve got a login” and making the site really work for you, whether you’re job hunting, hiring, growing your entrepreneurial business, or just seeing and being seen in the online branding arena.
You’ll start by creating your LinkedIn profile and adding connections. Then you’ll use LinkedIn’s fancier features to do such things as reach out to friends of friends, join a Group conversation, or enhance your profile updates.
You can also download and use a handy checklist from LinkedIn to help you fill out your profile http://lnkd.in/jobsearchchecklist2013
The first 16 LinkedIn tips focus on your profile with the first three being very important:
Name: Use your “business” name. My given name is Elizabeth but no one calls me that, so I use Liz in my profile and on my business card. Don’t add extraneous information in the Name field (like “5,000+ connections”) unless you want to brand the size of your Rolodex rather than yourself.
Headline: Your LinkedIn headline, just below your name, is a huge branding opportunity. When another user searches the LinkedIn user database, your name and headline are the only things they’ll see before deciding whether to click on your full profile. Make your headline count. “Marketing Manager” isn’t much of a branding statement, but “Marketer Specializing in Social/Content Marketing for Hospitals” separates you from the pack.
Photo: Don’t leave your LinkedIn profile photoless. Upload any decent-looking, digital head-and-shoulders photo. You don’t need business attire for this shot. Just use a photo that sends the message, “This is a business or professional person,” meaning (as you may have guessed) last year’s beach vacation shots might not be your best pick. (Then again, it all depends on your brand.)
URL: Make sure your LinkedIn profile bears your own stamp in the form of a personalized URL, like linkedin.com/in/jeffquandt. Once you’ve got that customized URL, you can use it on your résumé, in your e-mail signature, and on your business card.
Contact: Here you can list as much are as little as you wish about how to contact you. Include websites, blogs, phone number, twitter account, email, instant messaging.
Summary: Here’s where you can tell your story. “Results-oriented Finance professional” makes you sound like a robot or a zombie. “I started out in Accounting before morphing into a Sales Operations guy” gives us a feel for your path and your personality. Have fun with your LinkedIn summary—it’s the one free-form (and long!) field on LinkedIn where you can speak to the reader (the person viewing your profile) in a human voice.
Skills: A powerful new LinkedIn feature is Skills, which lets you list a bunch of keywords that amplify your profile with skills and abilities you have. Connections can vote (endorse) on them to add value. List up to the 50 you can. Just start typing a skill and see what gets suggested. These are the search terms used by recruiters.
Experience: It takes only a few seconds to upload your text résumé to LinkedIn, and it will save you time creating the Experience section of your profile. You can amplify this field with your proudest accomplishments (those dragon slayer stories) or particular responsibilities you want readers to know about. It’s important to include the dates (list only years if you need to hide gaps) and employer names for each past assignment so LinkedIn can match you up with colleagues who have worked alongside you. Say how you did your job better than anyone else with the same title; better, faster, cheaper, made money, saved money. Avoid repeating duties and responsibilities; recruiters already know them from the job title. Usually best to list the most recent 10-15 years of work experience.
Attachments: You can add files, photos, links to off LinkedIn sites, like YouTube, Box.net, SlideShare and other sites to show off some of your work. You can add these items in the Summary, Work Experience and education. This is a great way to separate yourself and show off a little about what you know and what you can do.
Additional Information: Your profile’s Additional Information field lets you round out the “Story of You” with organizations, patents, publications you have written, honors and awards you’ve won, volunteer activities, and your interests.
Personal Information: You can list as little or as much personal information as you want on your profile. It’s your choice. I typical avoid listing marital status and birthday; LinkedIn ain’t Facebook.
Education: Including accurate dates in the Education section of your profile will make it easy for the LinkedIn database elves to match you up with classmates who may be on LinkedIn now, waiting for you to reach out and refresh the connection. List graduations dates if less than 10 years ago. Forget about listing your high school unless there might be something that can add personal branding value. If you graduated more than 10 years ago, you might want to leave the date off.
Advice for Contacting You: This is a great place to add additional information and more keywords that can set you apart from other candidates.
BUILD YOUR NETWORK
Your LinkedIn profile is in great shape. Now all you need is a network. Here are four tips for bringing your crew back into reach or converting 3rd Degree friends and contacts into LinkedIn connections.
Connections: Look for the People You May Know on nearly every page of LinkedIn; upper right hand column. Use this link to invite folks to join your first-degree network. In most cases you’ll need their e-mail addresses. If LinkedIn gives you the opportunity (some invitation channels do, and some inexplicably don’t), change the standard boilerplate invitation language to sound more like your own voice. Remind the person where you know each other. Be wary of sending invitations to people who aren’t expecting them—you could lose your invitation privileges that way.
Address Book: If you have an address book on Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook, Yahoo, or another popular e-mail application, you can download your entire contact list into LinkedIn. Don’t panic—LinkedIn won’t send spam; it will just tell you which of these contacts are already using LinkedIn.
Find Alumni: Just as the Colleagues feature does, Find Alumni lets you reconnect with people from your past. Invite people to join your network via the Classmates channel with caution, because this is where LinkedIn invitation spam tends to congregate. A helpful reminder in the body of your invitation (“I remember how much fun it was traveling to Tel Aviv with you in 1993.”) can help refresh the memory of classmates you haven’t been in touch with for a while.
Who’s Viewed Your Profile: Check and see who has looked at your Profile. It could be someone you know or perhaps a recruiter. If it is someone you don’t know but wondered why did that person look at your profile, go ahead and look at theirs. This shows you are interested in them and what they might do. Who know where that might lead. Could be a valued connection or perhaps a future boss.
NOW FOR THE GOOD STUFF
My last eight LinkedIn tips will get you using the site actively rather than sitting around waiting for people to reach out to you. Try one a day and build up your LinkedIn chops from “novice” to “cocky” status by next weekend.
Quick Search: Use the Search link in the upper Center of every LinkedIn page. Use Advanced Search to refine the information like company current or past, location, etc. You can search the LinkedIn database on every imaginable field, from a person’s name or industry to his or her virtual proximity to you. Searching LinkedIn is a free and easy way to build up your business-intelligence acumen and data warehouse. Try it!
Companies: LinkedIn’s Companies database is another treasure trove of useful information for job seekers, business developers, headhunters, and everyone else. When you find a company that interests you, click once to “Follow” that company and receive updates on its hires and other news.
Connections: When you’re ready to use LinkedIn as a networking tool, browse your first-degree connections’ connections to find someone you’d like to talk to. Make sure you appeal to the recipient and aren’t just asking a favor. You can make contact with the one-hop-away networker using the Get Introduced Through function.
Groups: LinkedIn Groups are magnificent idea-sharing and networking tools because they bring together subsets of the overall LinkedIn population, making it easy to converse and view one another’s profiles. Some Groups require approval from the moderator to join.
Jobs: LinkedIn includes job openings, but most of the time when I ask job seekers, “Where are you focusing your search?” they mention Monster, Craigslist, and jobs aggregators Simply Hired and Indeed. Those are all great sites, but let’s not overlook LinkedIn, which is unique because it links job openings to actual LinkedIn profiles. In an era when Black Hole recruiting abounds, it’s nice to be able to view a job listing AND the profile of the person who posted it.
Updates: Just like Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn updates keep your network current on what’s new in your life and work. You can update your status on the LinkedIn site or with a multiple-updates application like Hootsuite (which will update your Twitter feed, Facebook status, and LinkedIn status all at once).
Pulse: The news section of LinkedIn. Here you can read timely stories delivered to your account that generally matches your interest area; Your News. Top Posts are from LinkedIn contributors, you can also follow some of these people so new update will show up on your update feed or check the Updates flag in the top menu. The Discover tab shows a list of LinkedIn contributors that you might want to follow and add to your update stream. Pulse is a great place to find stories to share on your update and remember to add some value or a question to start a conversation with your network.
Recommendations: LinkedIn Recommendations, are an essential piece of the online networking-and-branding puzzle, but we’ve saved them for last because they require a bit more thought and care. It’s possible to ask people to endorse you on LinkedIn, but I recommend endorsing others first and letting them return the favor for you (LinkedIn prompts them to write a recommendation for you once you’ve completed a Recommendation for them).
You must have a first-degree connection with someone in order to recommend them. Make sure your recommendations are pithy and specific. The presence of Recommendations on your LinkedIn profile improves your results in database searches … and LinkedIn endorsements have their own power, especially if they’re well-written.
To give you an idea of how robust LinkedIn’s features are, we’ve barely scratched the surface here. Try some of our 25 tips this week and grow your online networking mojo in the process.
Liz Ryan is an expert on the new-millennium workplace and a former Fortune 500 HR executive.
Jeff Quandt is the co-facilitator for the Omaha Networking Group where he helps as the LinkedIn Counselor, personal branding specialist and Digital Marketing Manager.
For his Day Job he is an Inbound Marketing Consultant, helping businesses grow more leads by getting found in a Google Search.